I aimed the garage door opener at the house again, pressed the silver button, and the once-illuminated backyard turned black.

It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. I could see Alexander, his hair tousled, a towel by his side.

"Quick thinking," he complimented, and gave me a long kiss.

"We better get out of here--," I said.

"Jagger will be more determined than ever to get Trevor now that he knows we've found his hideout. They won't wait much longer."

Chapter 8 Gossip and Garlic

If there ever was a morning I didn't want to get out of bed, this was it. After pressing the snooze bar repeatedly, I unplugged my Nightmare Before Christmas alarm clock and stashed it under my bed.

What I couldn't unplug was my mother's voice.

"Raven!" she called for the millionth time from downstairs. "You've overslept. Again."

After a quick shower, I threw on a black-on-black ensemble. I dragged myself into the kitchen to gulp down some of the leftover morning sludge that Dad called "coffee." I found Billy Boy already commandeering the chair by the TV with our new house guest, Henry. The nerd-mates were glued to the screen, watching historic footage of battleships blasting their cannons and devouring Pop-Tarts and Crunch Berries.

With every crunch of the captain and boom of a cannon, I felt like my head was behind enemy lines.

"Turn that off!" I whined, and switched the channel to the Home Shopping Network.

A petite blond with a perfect french manicure was modeling bedazzling silver bracelets.

"Hurry, there's only fifty seconds left!" I warned Billy Boy. "You could own one in just five easy payments. The blue topaz matches your eyes."

Billy Boy raced to the TV and wrangled the control out of my hand. "Get off!" he said, switching it back to the History Channel. "If you'd watch, maybe you'd learn something. Then your report card could be framed in Dad's office, instead of ending up in his paper shredder."

I stirred cream and a pound of sugar into a java-filled Dullsville Country Club mug and poured myself a small bowl of Count Chocula. The gun battle and excessive crunching continued. I could barely open my charcoal eyelids wide enough to see the chocolate vampires floating in the milk among the marshmallow ghosts and bats.

My mom burst into the kitchen in her Corporate Cathy gear--a crisp gray DKNY pantsuit and Kate Spade mules--and opened the fridge door. "Morning," she said gleefully. "I thought you'd never get up."

"I didn't either," I grumbled.

"I saw Mrs. Mitchell at the pharmacy last night buying Trevor some cough syrup," she said, placing her Tupperware bowl filled with low-fat, low-taste premade salad in her Bloomingdale's tote bag. "Trevor must have the same cold you had."

"Yeah, he's been out of school. It's been the first time I only detested school instead of hating it."

"Well, I think he's on the mend. His mother told me a girl has been bringing him protein shakes and he's feeling better."

"You mean one of the cheerleaders, right?" I queried.

"No. Mrs. Mitchell made it very clear this girl is new to town and dresses--well, not very conservatively," my mom said, grabbing a bottled water and closing the fridge door.

"You mean, like me?"

My mother paused.

It was Luna.

"Is it the white-haired girl Trevor was with at the Spring Carnival?" Billy Boy asked.

"It may be," my mom answered. "I didn't see them together."

"I just saw her from a distance," my brother said. "But a kid at Math Club swears she has a twin. They were spotted coming out of the cemetery. Her brother was dressed like he just stepped off a pirate ship.

"Kids are saying they sleep in sewers," Billy Boy continued.

"It's not nice to gossip," my mother warned.

"I heard they're ghosts. One dude claims you can see right through them," Henry said.

"And talk about tattoos and piercing," Billy Boy added, "I heard he has more holes in his head than you," Billy Boy said to me. "I have tattoos," I said, rolling up my sleeve and showing him a bat tattoo.

"Your dad told you to wash that off," my mother advised.

"And he has pierced kneecaps," my brother went on.

"Well, I'll pierce your kneecaps if you don't stop gossiping like two old ladies."

"All right. Boys, you are going to miss your bus if you don't finish soon," my mother ordered.

Henry and Billy Boy placed their empty bowls in the dishwasher.

"Mom, did Mrs. Mitchell say this girl brought Trevor protein shakes?" I asked.

"Supposedly they are special shakes from Romania. I asked Mrs. Mitchell to get the recipe for me."

Delicious drink, I thought. Ingredients: One cup crushed ice. One banana. One vial vampire's blood.

"I don't think you'd like this particular Romanian drink."

Finally we got a reprieve from the gunfire, and a commercial for Garlic One gelcaps came on the TV. Billy Boy aimed the remote to switch it off.

"No, wait," I said.

"You're suddenly interested in history?" Billy Boy asked proudly. "Maybe I'm rubbing off on you after all."

"Shh..."

My mom followed Billy Boy and Henry as they headed for the front door. "Garlic One," the commercial continued. "Natural and odorless. Helps promote cardiovascular- health with just one capsule a day."

Their slogan should say, "An odor-free way to keep the vampires away."

I was struck with an idea. Why hadn't I thought of it sooner? There was nothing I loved more than a brand-new plan!

Chapter 9 Haunted House Calls

"Hey, Beck, do you mind stopping at Paxx Pharmacy?" I asked my best friend when I hopped into her pickup. "I just have to buy a few things on the way to school."

"But Matt will be waiting by the bleachers for us. I don't want to be late."

"It'll only take a sec," I pleaded.

The old girl was as hot-glued to her soccer sweetheart as I was to my vampire boyfriend. I would have been sickened if I didn't understand her amorous devotion.

"Okay," she finally agreed. "I could get Matt some candy. He loves red licorice."

I remember when Becky and I would hang outside Paxx's and eat twines of red licorice until we felt ill. Now, instead of creating new memories with me, she was creating them with Matt. I turned to my best friend, who was wearing khakis and a pale blue button-down shirt. As long as I'd known Becky, she'd worn jeans and an oversized sweater. How long had I not noticed the change?

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